Travis & Fripp: Thread (Southbound)

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Travis & Fripp: Before Then
Travis & Fripp: Thread (Southbound)

By coincidence this disc turned up as I was reading David Sheppard's fascinating (if fruitily written) biography of Brian Eno, On Some Faraway Beach.
I was at the chapters about his work with avant-guitarist Robert Fripp on two of my favourite albums No Pussyfooting ('73) and Evening Star ('75) which seemed to define an art music within a rock context, even though they owed nothing to  rock music.
The long pieces of tonal guitar and electronics on those albums also anticipated to some extent the ambient music that Eno would develop (although his version was more refined and quasi-classical). But those albums still stand today.
And here now is Fripp back on a similar voyage with alto flute and soprano sax player Theo Travis (Gong and other prog movement acts) on nine pieces of smoothly textured aural wallpaper which conform to Eno's definition of ambient music as that which is as easy to ignore as it is to enjoy.
That's certainly true here: unlike those albums with Eno (and their more recent collaborations) which could be edgy as much as easy, this album has a much less astringent quality and veers more towards a kind of electronic textured ECM album.
It isn't all weightless flight however and on tracks like Before Then we get a sense of dissonance and unease. But perhaps track titles like As Snow Fall, The Silence Beneath and Pastorale are more fair clues.
My guess is that those who discovered No Pussyfooting and Evening Star at the time will be more settled in their ways so this might have great appeal.
I find it a bit insipid in the comparison, but there are certainly passages of considerable frostiness and disconcerting character which lift it beyond so much of the bloodless ambient music which is out there.
All done in a day too. Imagine what might happen if they really exercised themselves.

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